If an individual experiences phlegm in the back part of the throat, it is called postnasal drip. It is important to note that the nose and throat generally hold mucus. The mucus traps bacteria and prevents entry of unwanted debris. The excess mucus is swallowed unconsciously most of the time but when certain conditions such as the flu or common cold arises, the fluidity of the mucus can change and lead to the build-up or excessively thinned out secretions.
Conditions that affect postnasal drip
- Dry air
- Spicy foods
- Structural abnormalities such as enlarged turbinates or a deviated septum
- High blood pressure medications and birth control
- Excess consumption of dairy products
What are the signs and symptoms?
The indications of postnasal drip include coughing, difficulty swallowing, sensation of a lump in the throat, hoarseness and constant need to clear the throat.
- Increase the intake of fluids particularly water
- Use a cool-mist humidifier
- Avoid dairy products
- Utilize an over-the-counter saline nasal spray
- Deal with the underlying allergy
- Avoid spicy foods
- Use a decongestant such as pseudoephedrine
- Avoid being exposed to cold temperatures
- Increase the intake of water
- Treat any structural abnormalities such as enlarge tonsils, deviated septum or nasal polyps
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted if postnasal drip is accompanied by severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing or fever or if the symptoms lasted longer than a few weeks. If there is thick, foul-smelling discharge, set an appointment with a doctor as well.
It might be required to consult a specialist to determine and treat the cause. Some believe that if the color of the mucus is yellow or green, it indicates a viral infection. Remember that this is not always true. Most cases of common cold are caused by viruses, thus do not expect that an antibiotic must be given.
Postnasal drip is common and rarely serious, but can be triggered by certain conditions that necessitate medical care. If uncertain or the symptoms are not manageable, it is vital to consult a doctor.